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Protein bar vs shake: what should you choose post workout?

You’ve just completed a workout either at home or at the gym and you’re feeling a bit peckish. You know protein is great for post-workout muscle recovery, but do you reach for a protein bar or whip up a quick protein shake?

In this article, we’ll delve into the protein shake vs protein bar debate and explore which option might be the right one for your post-workout.

Why choose a protein snack after a workout?

Protein is an essential nutrient for your health and fitness, supplying the necessary amino acids that aid your muscles in mending the damage caused by exercise, while supporting the development of new muscle tissues. Protein also helps reduce muscle soreness and can prevent muscle breakdown.

Protein bar vs shake post workout – the pros and cons

Essentially, both protein bars and protein shakes can be equally good for you, depending on the ingredients, or they can be equally bad. Some may have added sugars, artificial sweeteners, preservatives or other ingredients that can lead to you undoing some of the great work done during your workout. Therefore, it’s important to read the labels carefully and choose products that have high quality ingredients and minimal additives.

Protein shakes

Protein shakes are drinks that contain protein powder mixed with water, milk or a plant-based alternative. They are typically consumed within 15 to 60 minutes of finishing a workout to provide muscles with the amino acids they need for repair and growth.

Protein shake advantages

  • Easy to absorb and digest, meaning they can deliver protein to the muscles faster than solid food.
  • Convenient and portable and can be prepared in advance or bought as a ready-to-drink product.
  • Customisable, as you can choose from different types of protein (such as whey and soy), flavours and additives to suit your preferences and tastes.
  • Can help keep you hydrated, providing fluid along with protein.

Protein shake disadvantages

  • Can be expensive, especially when purchasing high quality protein powders or branded products.
  • Often high in calories, sugar and artificial ingredients, depending on the type and flavour of the protein powder and the liquid you use to mix it.
  • Can be low in fibre, vitamins and minerals which are essential for overall health and wellness.
  • May sometimes cause digestive issues, such as bloating, gas and diarrhoea, particularly if you have a sensitivity to certain ingredients.

Best protein shakes

Best overall protein shake

MyProtein Impact Chocolate Brownie Whey - 21 grams of protein per 25g serving, 1 gram of sugar and only 103 calories make this protein shake a real all-rounder for post workout refreshment.

Best low calorie protein shake

Protein Works Vanilla Crème Diet Whey Isolate – only 92 calories per serving and zero fat, plus 23 grams of protein and 0.6 grams of sugar.

Best low sugar protein shake

USN 100% Plant Protein, Vanilla Maple – this tasty vegan option has just 0.1 grams of sugar per 30g serving. Also contains 260 grams of protein and 136 calories.

Best vegan protein shake

UFIT Vegan High 15g Protein Shake Chocolate Orange - great for vegans and those with a lactose intolerance. 15 grams of protein and a delicious taste.

Protein bars

Protein bars contain protein from various sources, such as whey, soy, nuts or seeds. They are a great post-workout snack, providing protein for muscle recovery, energy for replenishment and nutrients for health.

Protein bar advantages

  • Convenient and portable, you can carry them in your bag or pocket and eat them on the go.
  • Satisfying and filling, providing a solid texture and chewiness that can curb your appetite and cravings.
  • Often nutritious and balanced, as they often contain fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals along with protein.
  • Great for variety and taste and available in different flavours and textures to suit your preferences.

Protein bar disadvantages

  • Branded or organic protein bars are often
  • Can be high in calories, fat and sugar, depending on the type and flavour of the protein bar and the ingredients used to make it.
  • Some cheaper bars may be low in quality and purity, containing fillers, additives, preservatives or allergens.
  • May cause digestive issues such as constipation, if you consume too much fibre or have a sensitivity to certain ingredients.

Best protein bars

Best overall protein bar

Grenade Car Killa - good balance of protein, calories, sugar and taste.

Best low calorie protein bar

Fulfil Vitamin & Protein Bar - only 188 calories per bar with 20g of protein and 9 vitamins.

Best low sugar protein bar

Quest Bar - only 1 g of sugar per bar and uses natural sweeteners like stevia and erythritol.

Best vegan protein bar

Protein Works Ridiculous Wild Chocolate Peanut Vegan Protein Bar - fully plant based and palm oil free. It's also low in sugar, high in protein and fibre, with 200 calories per bar.

Other post-workout protein snacks

You could of course opt for a different protein snack altogether if bars or shakes aren’t your thing. There are plenty of other foods that can provide you with the protein and other nutrients your body needs after a workout, such as:

  • Greek yogurt with berries and granola - a creamy and refreshing snack that provides about 15 grams of protein per cup of yogurt, plus antioxidants, fibre and healthy carbs.
  • Cottage cheese with crackers and fruit - savoury and satisfying with approximately 12 grams of protein per half cup of cottage cheese, plus calcium, vitamin C and whole grains.
  • Hard-boiled eggs with hummus and carrot sticks - this simple and nutritious snack that can supply you with about 6 grams of protein per egg, plus healthy fats, iron and fibre.
  • Tuna salad with whole wheat bread or lettuce wraps – not only filling and packed with flavour, but also provides you with about 20 g of protein per can of tuna, plus omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and folate.

How LiveWell Dorset can help you on your fitness journey

If you’re looking to get fit and healthy, then regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet is the right way to do it! Here at LiveWell Dorset, we have a fantastic range of resources to help you on your way to a happier, healthier life. Why not try our handy Habit Hacker tool which can help provide bespoke behaviour change techniques personalised to you?

Alternatively, drop us a line today on freephone 0800 840 1628 to find out how the LiveWell team can support you and your health and fitness goals. When you register with us, you’ll unlock access to personalised, one-to-one coaching tailored specifically to you. We’ve helped thousands of people across Dorset and we’d love to help you too!


I drank too much alcohol and had unhealthy eating habits. Pastry is such a bad thing, it's all those pies, pasties and sausage rolls!

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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